Why Matt Hasselbeck is a better fit for Colts right now than Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck is a better QB than Matt Hasselbeck. But right now Hasselbeck is a better fit as the Colts' starter.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

Why Matt Hasselbeck is a better fit for Colts right now than Andrew Luck


Matt Hasselbeck is not a better quarterback than Andrew Luck, but this season he has been a better answer for the Colts at quarterback.

The Colts are 6-5 with a share of first place in the AFC South, and four of those wins have come with Hasselbeck as starter. He is undefeated this season as a starting quarterback, while Luck has largely floundered to a 2-5 record in an injury-marred campaign.

Injuries don’t explain all of Luck’s poor play (believe it or not, Luck is PFF’s lowest-ranked quarterback this year with a grade of 47.3), but they likely played their part in the struggles.

The reason that Hasselbeck has been so successful within the offense, though, is that the Colts play a completely different style when he is under center compared to what they run when Luck is.

Before this season Luck was seen as this indestructible force at the position. He was young, built solidly, and was prepared to hang in the face of pressure for receivers to uncover downfield and take a hit if it meant delivering a strike to his receivers.

Hasselbeck doesn’t have the physical gifts Luck does, so he gets by with the stuff north of his shoulders instead. Hasselbeck gets the ball out quickly, mitigating pressure and the chance he’ll take hits at all by minimizing the time defenders have to get anywhere near him.

Over the season Luck’s average time to throw is 2.67 seconds, which is slower than all but four other quarterbacks. Hasselbeck’s average is just 2.32, faster than all but five others.

Hasselbeck gets the ball out by being a little less aggressive down the field than Luck is. While Luck’s average depth of target is 10.1 yards down field (in the top 10 of the NFL), Hasselbeck’s is 7.8 — 27th in the NFL and approaching Alex Smith territory.

When you factor in drops, it’s clear that the Hasselbeck approach is far more efficient. Luck has been accurate on 65.0 of his passes this season, but Hasselbeck is more than 10 percent better at 76.1. Even ignoring drops, his completion percentage is almost seven points better.

But the biggest boost this shift in philosophy has on the team is what it does to the offensive line, which has a far easier time protecting for Hasselbeck than it does for Luck. Over the four games Hasselbeck has started, the Colts’ line has a pass-blocking efficiency of 84.0 – the best in the NFL. Over the games Luck has started, the O-line’s PBE is just 74.5, which is 25th. The Colts have surrendered 33 total pressures over the time Hasselbeck has started (8.3 per game), but 111 when Luck has been the quarterback (almost double the rate at 15.9).

Nobody will argue that a 40-year old Matt Hasselbeck is a better quarterback than Andrew Luck, but Luck has not been himself this season and the Colts have struggled in key areas more than in previous years. Watching Luck try and right the ship this season has largely been like watching a man try and push his car out of the mud – the harder he fought the deeper he sank, while the wheels just spun in place.

Hasselbeck brings something different to the team, and in this case different is just better for the Colts right now.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    if hasslebeck was the QB in the game against denver not only does IND lose then but matt would literally be on his deathbed, and not the figurative one he mentioned when he was sick earlier this season. andrew luck’s gutty performance that game is something i’ll never forget. i hope my broncos get to play him again in january, but i see the chiefs destroying whomever the 4 seed ends up being on wildcard weekend

  • Scott

    The Luck Narrative runs deep. Luck was never as good as his media hype. Last year Hasselbeck had a better DVOA rating than Luck has ever had. This year so far, it’s 2.25 compared to Luck’s -14.8% Luck has only had rwo positive rated seasons. Three of Wilson’s years are better than Luck’s best year per DVOA. Luck simply throws too many INTS and holds the ball too long. Hass doesn’t. Wilson holds the ball too long, but doesn’t throw the INTS. And Wilson is a Houdini. Hass is better than Luck, the Luck Narrative that’s run despite his stats never approaching the hype is the only reason anyone would think differently.

    • crashby89

      Last year both PFF and Football outsiders had Luck ranked in the top 10 of their QB lists. Before this season, one in which Luck has had many injuries mind you, Luck entered the league with the 6th lowest INT %. Even with this year being as bad as it has been he still holds the 11th lowest INT % and the 10th highest TD% among active starters. In fact if you actually looked at the games there were many instances where he had 0 turnovers until after the team was already in a hole, last year against the Steelers and the AFCC game are both examples.

      You can use whatever metric you want but Luck is still among the best QB’s in the NFL when healthy. One bad year does not change that fact. Oh and before you continue the greatly flawed Hasselbeck is better than Luck argument perhaps you should actually read the article?

      “The reason that Hasselbeck has been so successful within the offense, though, is that the Colts play a completely different style when he is under center compared to what they run when Luck is.”

      “Nobody will argue that a 40-year old Matt Hasselbeck is a better quarterback than Andrew Luck, but Luck has not been himself this season and the Colts have struggled in key areas more than in previous years.”

      • Scott

        Last year was his only decent season, when he had a DVOA of 9.2% The previous two years it was 4.6% and -5.1%. Yes, I did read the article. Hass gets the ball out quickly. Luck holds onto it. Luck does have a turnover problem, you just buy into the Luck Narrative too much to admit it. He averages exactly 1 INT per game. 55 INTs, 55 games. Wilson, by comparison, has thrown 33 INTs in 59 games, behind the worst pass protection in the NFL annually. That’s not even counting Lucks 12 INTs in 6 playoff games. The only reason Lucks stats are even mediocre is because of the weak division he plays in. He’s had an easy time of it. You compare his stats vs playoff teams to the stats of other QB’s vs playoff teams and you’ve got a very below average QB.

  • ℱℛℰℰ

    And if Luck had been playing all this time! the colts would be playing for a high draft pick! Luck has been over hyped since he’s been in the league. his first 3 years, he got away with taking all kinds of unneccesary chances with the ball. well its caught up to him now! his balls are so badly off target, and over thrown! that everybody is intercepting his passes, where as before, they were dropping them! Not this year. He’s made our line look like shit! you think its a merical that they actually look decent now? a
    And that now the defence is much fresher from not having to come right back on the field after another Luck turnover? Wake up! its not a not a dream! Luck is rated the worst NFL QB in the league! Go check it! I have. And i’m a Colts fan! Hard but its fair!

    • crashby89

      If you honestly think Hasselbeck is the better QB when Luck is healthy please just go watch another sport. All that caught up to him was bad play calling and injury.